US container imports remain at 2019 levels

Descartes Systems Group (Nasdaq: DSGX) (TSX:DSG) has released its latest Ja global shipping report, highlighting ongoing trends in US container imports. The report shows that import volumes remain exactly at 2019 levels, but are significantly below the volumes of the first half of last year.

In May, the volume of US container imports increased by 3.8% compared to April, reaching a total of 2,097,313 TEU (twenty foot equipment units). The increase is due to an increase in imports from China and Vietnam. However, compared to May 2022, import volumes fell by 20.0% last month.

Despite the year-on-year decline, import volumes remained at pre-pandemic levels of 2019. Import volumes last month were 0.5% higher than in May 2019. This trend continued through the first four months of 2023, with import volumes showed a difference of 1.3% compared to the corresponding period in 2019.

Descartes’ report highlights ongoing challenges impacting global supply chain performance in 2023, including West Coast labor relations and increasing delays at ports, which have returned to early 2023 levels.

“US container import volumes continue to increase and are broadly in line with 2019 levels, with support from China, Vietnam and other South and Southeast Asian countries,” commented Chris Jones, Descartes executive vice president of industry, on the report. “Increasing port transit time delays and labor disputes within the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) mean increasing disruptions in the global supply chain, resulting in further delays in the normalization of West Coast cargo flows.”

Analyzing the performance of individual ports, the Port of Los Angeles recorded the highest increase in total container volume compared to April, with an increase of 56,226 TEU. Meanwhile, the Port of Tacoma posted the highest month-on-month percentage gain of 33.3%.

Chinese imports recorded the second straight month of growth in May, rising 5.1% compared to April 2023, totaling 780,684 TEU. However, those numbers still point to a 22.2% drop from the peak reached in August 2022. Overall, China accounted for 37.2% of total US container imports in May, up 0.4% from April 2023.

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